Business leader Misty Lown convened (remotely) more than 700 dance studio owners to create an action plan in response to COVID-19 studio closures. ICYMI, here are the takeaways:
- Studios can deliver value to customers with online content.
- Owners can preserve enrollment with caring communication.
- The federal stimulus package is a strong short-term safety net.
At the end of her virtual town hall meeting Monday, March 30, dance studio business advocate Misty Lown said to the more than 700 studio owners who attended (remotely): "We've gone through difficult things before. We will survive, but let's thrive. Let's come through this closer, more compassionate, with greater courtesy and contributions than ever before."
Lown, who operates a studio in Wisconsin with enrollment of 900, outlined the steps she and other studio members affiliated with More Than Just Great Dancing have taken to provide service continuity during COVID-19-related closure of dance studios and schools. In the 90-minute session co-hosted by Dance Teacher and Dance Business Weekly, she shared strategies to assure the best outcomes going forward.
Our Current State
Based on a survey completed by the first 500 studios to register for the video call, only 7 percent had elected not to move their classes online; 48.8 percent of those who had moved to online reported they were continuing to charge full tuition rates for online classes; 28.6 percent were offering a discount for online classes; 22.6 percent were not planning to charge for online classes.
A survey question about recitals showed that 41.4 percent were moving forward with spring recital plans, hoping to salvage this significant piece of their revenue for Q2 (April, May and June)—typically the highest income quarter of the year; 25.7 percent indicated they were not sure they'd be able to produce their recital; 32.9 percent were planning to reschedule or relocate their events.
Competition activity has been greatly affected: 76 percent of the responders had experienced a competition cancellation; 42 percent of those had received a refund or a mix of refund and credit; 58 percent had received a credit only.
Transitioning to Online Learning
Lown presented some inspiring examples of studios who have successfully transitioned to online classes, each with a unique imprint.
Exemplary Training Effort
Focus on Retaining Students
Give Extra Attention to Faculty and Parents
Adding the WOW Factor
Asked about families who declined to participate in distance learning, Lown noted that often it wasn't because the parents questioned the concept of distance learning and why it was necessary. There was usually a secondary concern to be addressed, such as: "I don't want to do it in my living room"; "it's too crazy here;" or, "she wasn't really that much into it anyway so let's just wrap it up for the year." But if you do everything you can to convince your customer and they still want to leave your studio, she said: "Let them go, because you want them to go with a sweet taste in their mouth." As always, you're creating a reputation in your community that will serve you well in your future.
Tapping Into Funding Options
Lown invited CPA Mary Jo Werner to help explain how the CARES Act can benefit dance studio owners. (Also, see Dance Business Weekly's explanation of the stimulus details.) Werner suggested to look first at the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides funding for the equivalent of eight weeks of payroll expenses (and more, see details in our article here) and is a forgivable loan for those who maintain their current payroll levels.
Then there are loans up to $2 million under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), with interest rates of 3.75 percent for small businesses, 2.75 percent for nonprofits—and up to 30 years to repay. Before applying for either, it's important to slow down and really look for the net benefit, Werner advises.
Also of note is that independent contractors and self-employed individuals will now be covered by unemployment compensation.
Call to Action
If all this seems overwhelming, you're not alone. But Lown compares it to the project of planning a recital, something every studio owner has done many times. "We are the most creative people on the planet," she said. "If we can't do this, I don't know who can."